The Grammys haven’t been a music fan’s music event for some time. It’s clear that the focus has shifted to “big music,” irrespective of anything but social media trending and record sales. Scouring the internet, you would think the world was on fire, sold out to a nefarious elite who subliminally work to destroy our way of life and, possibly, our very existence. It’s not quite that dramatic, but it’s still a joke – the kind of joke an obnoxious, abusive friend pulls and pulls again, thinking it’s funnier the second time. Grammys, its time we talked: the 58th time isn’t a charm.
It seemed, for the briefest of moments, that there was some justice in the world when Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp A Butterfly won the best rap album category (as if there was any competition). That glimmering spark of hope was quickly snuffed out when Taylor Swift’s 1989 beat Kendrick for the illustrious album of the year award. As the eroded but-still-brilliant Professor Farnsworth of Futurama would say, “I don’t want to live on this planet anymore.”
Anyone remotely versed in hip-hop and pop music tradition should come away from both albums with the same conclusion. To Pimp A Butterfly, regardless of personal preference, is a more important and demanding work of art. Lamar conducted a musical autopsy not just of himself, but of the black man in America. From careful introspection to seething rage, Lamar put everything on the table in an exhaustive personal and social statement. Taylor Swift wrote some catchy hooks.
Essentially, the Grammys pulled an Oscars last night by voting white girl problems over a thorough, soulful dissection of black life and culture. The naivest of viewers might believe its an honest mistake, but grizzled Grammy veterans know better. This isn’t the first time. It surely won’t be the last. That’s why the Grammy’s need an intervention. It’s not going to be easy, but the first step in recovering credibility is admitting there’s a problem.
Just admit it.